Cardiac diseases are the largest killers in affluent sections of the world today. Every year, many people suffer from cardiac related problems and the main causes are atherosclerosis and hypertension.
Every part of the body is dependent on the heart which beats untiringly throughout your life. Hypertension can be a result of emotional reasons or stress in any other organ or part of body which requires healing. Heart function is intimately related to our emotional metabolism. Our emotional state directly influences the behaviour of heart and heart disease is often as much an emotional disorder as it is a physiological disease.
Try to notice your breathing pattern, when you are ungoing some tension, are irritated or upset, or are very happy. Remain alert to such a state to find how it plays out in relation to your thought process; as your emotions are linked to your thoughts which, in turn, affect your breathing pattern and lead to stress. For example, there is a corresponding breathing pattern when you are tense (short and shallow), happy (deep and rhythmic), irritated (short and arrhythmic) or anxious.
Everyone suffers stress in routine life but the way you react to it matters a lot. The way we react states our emotional response to each situation, since our heart's function is directly related to emotional metabolism.
Some amount of tension is necessary as all of us deal with it or fight against it, but once it is over, you should know to let go and relax and live in the present. Since many of us carry these things at the back of our mind and consequently, find that our sleep is also disturbed, it leads to continuous activation of stress hormones.
For example, an anxious and excessively tense mind is always gripped by worries and problems. One is constantly bursting into anger, or nail biting as a habit. The facial muscles become tense, we raise our eye brows, causing the sympathetic nervous system to be activated and flood the circulation with stress hormones.
If we are ignorant about the symptoms associated with it, we might land in trouble after a few months and it can further lead to hypertension. When you are tense for long hours or even days at a stretch, the heart is strained and its beat is accelerated. The heart beats beyond its capacities. This is responsible for sending the small arteries into tight spasms or a state of permanent contraction. The heart has to pump against the back pressure of the blood in the arterial tree and as result, we get high blood pressure. It also leads to other problems such as kidney and heart failure.
Our emotional state directly influences the behaviour of the heart and heart disease is often an emotional disorder than a physical disease.
BP can be kept in control through proper diet and other yogic relaxation exercises.
Those asanas in which your head and heart remains in the same plane are preferable. For example, Shashankasana and a few asanas involving stretching in standing posture and while lying down.
Sit in Vajrasana and raise your arms up and gently bend forward and place your forehead on the floor and your arms stretched forward.
Make sure your head doesn't hang down and your buttocks remain seated on the heel. You can separate your knees to allow your abdomen muscles to fall in between your legs and relax.
Rabbit pose helps in relaxing the adrenal gland and thus reduces the stress hormones. This posture helps you to withdraw your mind from the outside world. If you are not able to sit in Vajrasana for long, then use the cushion as a prop under your forehead as well as under your feet, and try to keep your head and heart at the same level.
Stand with your legs close to each other and gently raise both your arms upward and interlock your arms and stretch them upwards and raise your body on your toes. Hold the posture for 10 to 20 counts with normal breathing. Repeat it three times and it can be practised thrice a day. It relaxes the shoulders as well as the spine and stretches the back and waist muscles. It helps to reduce the physical stress which you develop during the day. It can be practised during the day as it helps to reduce the tension in knees as well as in the neck and shoulders, particularly if one is an upper body athlete. It is good for those who sit in front of a desktop computer for long hours.
This asana is done standing or sitting on the chair. Raise right arm up behind your head and the other arm from below and behind your back and try to lock your arms. Hold it for 30 seconds with your chin parallel to the floor. Repeat the same with the other arm. Repeat it thrice and it can be practised the same number of times a day. This asana in the standing posture or while sitting on the chair or on the floor helps one to relax their shoulders, chest muscles and allows one to take deep breaths easily and improves the posture.
Since the mind influences the body more than the body influences the mind, research says that if you can quickly change your breathing rate, you send a message to the brain, saying "I am not threatened."
You can practise deep breathing anywhere without anyone's knowledge, especially during work hours when the stress levels are high. But try to maintain the ratio of 1:2 , inhalation to exhalation. You can this way reduce the stress hormones in the blood as the brain understands your breathing speed's language. Tranquillising Pranayamas like Shitali, Shitkari, Bhramari are advisable as they help cool the body and tranquillise the mind.
Relieves stress and cerebral tension, alleviates anger, anxiety and insomnia and reduces blood pressure. It also eliminates throat ailments. But it can't be practised by those having ear infections. If you practise Bhramari, then make sure that you hum like a bee loudly 11 times in five minutes, or lesser numbers in more minutes so as to give yourself complete benefit. It helps you to enter a thoughtless state of mind. This will, in turn, reduce the stress instantly. People suffering from migraine must practise this everyday 21 times to overcome their problem. Practise Bhramari in the ratio 1:4 of inhalation and exhalation.
Yoga Nidra meditation
Yoga Nidra helps the practitioners to balance their emotions, anger and passions which will in turn balance their tensions. Yoga Nidra helps in lowering the BP as a thoughtless mind gets relaxed fast. It has a tranquillising effect on the mind. There is 20 per cent reduction of oxygen consumption as against eight per cent reduction after six hours of sleep.
Like any other pump, the heart is subject to wear and tear, especially if it is abused or overstrained. The key to a long life is in preserving the heart from excessive strain of all kinds like preserving mental and emotional balance, dietary control, getting adequate exercise, sleep and adopting a yogic life style. Among the Mudras, Vyan mudra for 50 minutes and Pran mudra for 15 minutes would also help to bring down blood pressure.
Mental and emotional balance, dietary control, adequate exercise and sleep are required to balance your stress level in the day to day life.
Prema Nagesh (The writer is a yoga instructor and therapist based in Muscat)